Love thy neighbour
Readers' Speak: Coronavirus and social isolation; Janata Curfew
- Published 22.03.20, 3:00 AM
- Updated 22.03.20, 3:00 AM
- 3 mins read
Sir — While social isolation is important to stop the spread of the coronavirus, what is equally important is to reach out and help those in need. Ironically, at a time when people need to stay away from each other, they also need to come together as a society. Helping neighbours in need with ingredients and not hoarding so that there is enough stuff for everybody are just two of the duties of citizens in this time of need. Other steps include, spreading awareness about maintaining personal hygiene and explaining to all acquaintances the importance of self-isolation as far as possible.
Sir — The prime minister in his televised address to the nation read out a long list of dos and don’ts to contend with the coronavirus. But people are already aware of these steps thanks to aggressive campaigns launched in the print and electronic media. The only takeaway from the address was thus the call for what he called a “Janata Curfew” from 7 am to 9 pm today, exhorting citizens, except those engaged in essential services, to stay indoors. He also asked people to express their gratitude to those running essential services by ringing bells, clapping and sounding sirens for five minutes at 5 pm. Incidentally, the last bit is not novel. Similar things have been done by Spaniards and Italians.
There was not a word from the prime minister about the level of preparedness of the government to deal with this crisis and the steps that have been taken to ramp up testing facilities by roping in private health service providers. He was also silent regarding the steps required for removing the bottlenecks for the private sector to get approval for conducting tests. The availability of critical care beds is well below the required number. In fact, India spends less than Nepal on public health.
Modi also said nothing about the huge demand for items such as masks and hand sanitizers that are not available in the market. Further, the condition of quarantine centres, except those run by armed forces, are not satisfactory. The prime minister would do well to address these vital issues instead of indulging in symbolic gestures such as asking people to bang pots and pans.
Sir — The prime minister has given a right message to people at the right time. His call for a “Janata Curfew” on March 22 will certainly get the importance of social isolation across to the masses. To inculcate the discipline required for a self-imposed curfew demands ones resolve, restraint and seriousness. People must be readied for this bit by bit. The curfew today is the first step before a bigger challenge. People’s involvement and participation will be key to flattening the curve of the virus.
The government should take note of the vulnerabilities of the poor and address them. For the coming couple of weeks, which are important to break the chain of transmission, the poor should be provided essential commodities, financial aid and medical help free of cost at their doorstep. Every person is a soldier in the fight against the coronavirus; he should be motivated and taken care of.
Vizianagaram, Andhra Pradesh
Sir — It is commendable that our prime minister has urged people to stay at home between 7 am to 9 pm today. It is heartening that the government seems concerned about the situation. While the prime minister has asked people not to panic and assured them that there is no need to horde items, he has not come out with any concrete plans about markets and when they will open or stay shut. In the absence of plans people are bound to panic. Further, it has been said that the curfew might be extended but nothing has been said about how long.
Will the government step in so that people do not have to suffer in times of emergency or as a result of self-isolation. We have seen in the past how the government was caught unawares in crises. It remains to be seen whether the present dispensation can do better than previous ones have. Either way, the time to take mitigatory measures is right away.